The Revd Bernard Gordon Hastings: 1929-2015
Gordon touched the lives of so many people in so many wonderful ways. He was a preacher, a teacher a scholar of theology and history, a mentor and friend and above all the best of husbands, fathers and grandfathers.
His education at Repton school followed by degrees at both Glasgow and Oxford universities provided a platform from which he led the very richest of lives. The story goes it all began for him in the Repton debating society – the motion was “this house believes that idealism must shape the post war world” and he was moved in the moment to speak without notes, and won a rousing ovation. He had found his calling; the die was cast.
His talent catapulted him at the tender age of 26 to the ministry of Queens Road Baptist Church in Coventry where he became the spiritual and pastoral leader of more than 400 people.
Then still only 32, he went to the church they called the Baptist Cathedral in South London, at Sutton where for 11 years – in many ways his halcyon days – he led a membership of over 600 people. He was a fine preacher, engaging and intelligent and it was substance not just style that got him noticed.
His theology was liberal not evangelical. He was a consummate communicator in all contexts - at the church door, at the hospital bedside, in the classroom or in the personal counsel and guidance he gave to so many in their hours of need. His ministry in Sutton was marked above all else by his commitment to ecumenism and he devoted himself to the union of the four churches of different denominations that stood on the corners of the crossroads at the heart of that London suburb.
He also travelled the length and breadth of the country preaching in small chapels, great cathedrals and most places in between. He travelled the world as well – to Brazil as a student and later on two extended preaching tours of the USA. He participated in the opening of the new Coventry Cathedral, spoke in the Royal Albert Hall, preached live on national TV and, in the days when television came to an end each night with appropriate solemnity, at a sensible hour, he gave the broadcast epilogue!
Then aged 42 he turned to teaching. He became Head of Religious Education at Wyggeston Boys Grammar School in Leicester and started a new chapter. During this time he often reflected on his time and rich experience at Repton. He took to teaching with commitment and determination but never stopped preaching. He adopted an ailing church in Leicester and guided them over several years to unity with another nearby church.
A tribute from a former student read - "you were the first person who really showed any belief in me and your constant encouragement was absolutely pivotal to developing my sense of self belief". The school magazine marked his retirement with a long tribute, ending:- "Few teachers have offered expertise over so wide a range of subjects or have been so widely respected".
He had a rich retirement travelling the world, remaining involved with the church and many clubs and societies and pursuing his hobbies - gardening, DIY, home brewing, sports fan, lover of classical music, walking his dog - like most driven and focussed people he rarely sat idle.
And for 63 years the constant presence, influence and love of his life was his wife Phyllis.
He rejoiced in the achievements of his three children, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He took great interest in them all, made each of them feel special and he didn't shy from telling them how much he loved them. He has left a huge hole in the lives of many, but inspired the strength and confidence to try to do justice to his memory.